History of Racquetball
Racquetball is an active indoor sport played using a hollow rubber ball in a court, which could be indoor or outdoor. In general, the sport is viewed as similar to tennis and handball because many of such games’ rules are incorporated into racquetball. However, the truth is that this sport is unique. How did it originate?
Joe Sobek, a US-based professional handball and tennis player, is credited for inventing the game in 1950. He introduced the game initially during the Greenwich YMCA. During that time, Mr Sobek had still not thought of a catchy name for the sport. The development of racquetball was an outcome of his quest for a fast-paced type of sport that was both easy to learn and to play. During that time, racquetball was created as an alternative to the popular game of tennis.
Two years after, in February 1952, he founded the NPRA or National Paddle Rackets Association. At the same time, Mr Sobek codified the game mechanics and printed them in the form of a booklet. This new sport was quickly adopted to emerge as a popular indoor sport. Through continuous promotion, the popularity of racquetball further increased. The new game was then supported by up to 40,000 handball courts within the country’s JCCs and YMCAs, where racquetball could be formally and appropriately played.
It was in 1969 when the International Racquetball Association was established. The group used a name as coined by professional tennis player Bob McInerney. That same year, the group assumed the roles of the National Paddle Rackets Association. In 1973, US Handball Association president and founder Robert W Kendler had a dispute with the directors of IRA. Mr Kendler then created two other organizations for racquetball. IRA has remained as a dominant organization promoting the sport.
IRA was recognized by no less than the US Olympic Committee as the national governing body for racquetball in the country. The sport hit its peak in popularity in 1974. That year, it was estimated that there were up to three million racquetball players in the country alone. At the same year, IRA organized the first ever racquetball professional tournament. The organization then went to become a founding member of the International Racquetball Federation. It marked the spread of the sport’s popularity from the US to other parts of the globe.
Because of the increasing popularity of racquetball, clubs and courts for the sport have been built and founded. Numerous sporting goods makers have started commercial production of racquetball-specific equipment. The growth and popularity of racquetball went on until the earlier part of the 1980s. However, its prestige diminished in the later part of that decade when racquet clubs started conversion into physical fitness clubs due to shifting preferences of people and changing demands.
Before the start of the 1990s, total number of racquetball players in the US alone has reached to approximately 5.6 million. The sport was warmly accepted by sports fanatics particularly those based in the United Kingdom. Thus, racquetball has become a popular ball sport not just for Americans but also for British sports aficionados.
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